Try to keep up | Three Things Thursday

Brett Maney
Senior Communications Manager
Unite America

There was a lot of chatter on social media ahead of Kentucky’s primary Tuesday. Everyone from LeBron James to Reese Witherspoon was sounding the alarm about alleged efforts underway to suppress voter turnout in the Bluegrass State. #AllEyesOnKentucky began trending nationally.

But here’s the big thing: the national narrative did not capture a full or accurate picture. Kentucky is one of the few states in which there’s been bipartisan collaboration (Democrat governor working with a Republican secretary of state) to make the voting process better. Indeed, Kentucky officials and lawmakers were actively working to expand access to voting options.  

Certainly, things weren’t perfect, and there are clear areas that need improvement for November. Voters in some counties waited in long lines, and some voters were shut out of the polls due to a limited voting window on Election Day itself. But for those on the ground, the national narrative popularized by celebrities on social media drowned out the much larger and much brighter story of Democrats and Republicans coming together to expand absentee and early voting -- a move that resulted in near historic turnout of more than 1 million voters. Swift action ensured all registered voters were mailed information about requesting ballots through a newly created online portal.

There is more Kentucky got right about how to administer an election during a pandemic than it got wrong, and other states should take note.

Here are three things to think about this week:

  1. Support local journalism

If there’s a lesson to be learned from Kentucky, it’s this: local journalists know what’s up. These reporters are writing the stories that inform voters and hold power to account -- and the stories that national journalists should be using to inform their work. This was clear in Kentucky Monday night, as a national (somewhat maligned) furor began, leaving local journalists, like the Pulitzer Prize-winning Phillip Bailey to defend the truth.

The truth is that Kentucky did work to put voters first. They created early voting for the first time ever in the state in an effort to protect voters from coronavirus. Obviously there are major lessons to be learned from Kentucky — polling locations will always be necessary, and voters shouldn’t be shut out due to traffic or other menial concerns.

If you want to know what’s going on in your state or city, subscribe to your local paper. These reporters and their stories may not get as much attention as national stories, but their stories are just as important.

  1. Ma, we made it.

Election reform got a major boost this week, after The Patriot Act on Netflix highlighted ranked choice voting as a key reform that can fix our elections. Instead of voting to ensure that our least favorite candidate doesn’t get elected, RCV allows voters to vote their conscience, and vote based on what they do like about a candidate.

Host Hasan Minaj pulls from a study published earlier this month by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences that analyzed the key ways that we can fix American democracy. Ranked choice voting, campaign finance reform, and national service were also on their list.

  1. And in case you weren’t sold on the idea of reform yet

Political dysfunction is a direct output of a poorly designed system. Politics, it turns out, is a lot like a business in that way. At least that’s the conclusion of Unite America board member and Democracy Found Co-Chair Katherine Gehl, who was interviewed this week by the Harvard Business Review.

Along with her co-author, Harvard professor Michael Porter, Gehl talks on the podcast about how a business framework helps to discern and identify the blockers that are preventing genuine policy progress in our country. For the American people to get a better product (like a functioning Congress) we have to first disrupt the system with a series of reforms that can change the incentives that drive politicians to the extremes.

Interested in learning more? You’re in luck. Their new book came out this week. Check it out.

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